There is a difference between cockiness and confidence, and Albion College sophomore Paul Lewis manages to express his athletic prowess and unique talents without doing so in an arrogant manner.
The three-sport athlete finished 21st overall and earned All-Region honors at the 2010 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional cross country meet with a time of 25:35.9 in his first year at the collegiate level.
Lewis, who was a three-time Jackson Citizen Patriot Dream Team runner and a member of back-to-back state championship track teams at Albion High School, also finds time to be a track standout, a varsity diver, a bass trombone player in the jazz ensemble, and a double major in physics and music.
“Physics classes are hands down the hardest I’ve taken in my whole life,” Lewis said, “but they are also the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken.
“Originally I was going to major in engineering and do the three-two program [at the University of Michigan], but cross country came in and we are building this amazing team. So I switched my major to physics because I didn’t want to leave.”
Despite a numerous amount of activities to choose from, Lewis loves cross country running the most.
“Definitely cross country,” Lewis said with a wide smile on his face. “As a long distance runner in track you just run in a circle a lot, but cross country offers a whole bunch of variety and it’s cool to be able to go and run on different venues.”
Before Lewis realized his elite-level skills as a long distance runner he had his heart set on being a sprinter in his early childhood.
“I thought I was fast and I thought I was a sprinter. So, I tried summer track and got my butt kicked a lot,” Lewis said. “I didn’t want to do it anymore, so my dad made me try long distance.”
At first, Paul resisted the idea of his father, Willie Lewis, one of Albion College’s cross country coaches, but eventually he began to enjoy distance running and gives his dad all the credit.
“I don’t knock [my dad] for it because he made me great and I love him for it,” Lewis said. “I guess there was a balance between pushing me into what he knew I would be good at and still making me love it, because I think if he would have pushed me too hard I would have hated running.”
Paul’s athleticism is validated further by the success he has earned in the pool. Lewis swam during his sophomore year of high school and decided to be a diver the following year.
The lone year of diving experience was enough for Albion College swimming and diving head coach Keith Havens to offer him a spot on the team.
“I did it in high school just because I didn’t want to do indoor track,” Lewis said.
A Full Slate
There's indoor track, and then there's the school band: to Lewis, it seemed like the worst idea at the time. But he can't get enough of it now and plays bass trombone in Albion College's jazz ensemble.
“My parents made me go into band and I did not want to go into band,” Lewis said. “I can’t knock them, though, because they pushed me into what I love to do now.”
As if all of this could not keep him busy enough, Lewis also decided to play a part in one of the College's stage productions last spring.
Being able to participate in three varsity sports as well as other extracurricular activities is a key factor in why Lewis chose to attend Albion.
“I was almost dead set on going to Michigan State and when I told them all of the things I wanted to do on top of running—like diving, swimming, acting, traveling abroad—the coaches basically told me I would have to redshirt and take a year off,” Lewis said.
“Then I presented [head coach] Hayden Smith with the same scenario and he said it was fine.”
When Lewis does have some downtime, he can be found playing Nintendo 64 or watching The Cosby Show on Netflix. But in truth, running is what gives Lewis his real break from his responsibilities.
“You don’t have to think about anything, or worry about anything,” he said, perking up a bit. “You are just out there.”
The Bigger Picture
Lewis hopes to study abroad in South Africa during the spring semester of his junior year and continue to build off of what he has already accomplished in such a short period of time.
His sophomore cross country is already off to a strong start. He finished fourth among all runners in the Vanderbilt Invitational championship, an event that Albion also won as a team.
Looking further ahead, after Albion, Lewis hopes to follow in the footsteps of one of his idols, actor and rapper Will Smith, and utilize a music degree to produce and write scores for some of his raps.
“If I could find a studio booth I would be in it right now,” Lewis said in a convincing tone.
Paul Lewis is a busy man, reaching goals and chasing down new ones. Just try to catch him.